717 State St.| Alton, IL 62002 618-465-4221 
altar glass altar2 sacrasty

History

Gallery of Pictures

HISTORY OF SS. PETER AND PAUL CHURCH

Our parish can be traced to 1838 when masses were held in a home in Upper Alton - a year after the death of Elijah P. Lovejoy. The most Reverend George Hamilton was the first pastor, sent by Bishop Joseph Rosati, C.M., of Chicago, head of the Illinois Diocese, which encompassed the entire state. In 1840 Reverend Hamilton’s parish, named St Mathew, consisted of 14 families, about 75 people. Masses were held at the home of Andrew Clifford, one of the prominent parishioners. Later a frame structure was built on his private property.

In 1843 the Reverend Michael Carroll, who had succeeded Rev. Hamilton, built a new stone church on the north side of Third Street between Alby and Easton Streets. In 1853 a fire destroyed the building. For the next three years masses were held in a large hall over Harts Livery Stable at 310 State Street, blocks from the recently abandoned State Penitentiary. Father Carroll received $5,000 from fire insurance and $4,000 for the lot and the ruins; there was an indebtedness of $1,800. The site was purchased by the Unitarians and a church was rebuilt. On April 7, 1854 a purchase agreement was signed between Peter and Harriet Wise and the Most Reverend Peter Richard Kenrick of St. Louis for a parcel of land. The purchase price was $600.

The church building was started in 1855 and was completed in 1857. It is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture constructed with local native limestone. Architect Thomas Walsh designed the building for a fee of $200 with total costs of $35,000. On May 15, 1859 the Rt. Rev. Peter Richard Kenrick, D.D. Archbishop of St. Louis, solemnly consecrated the church. The original spires were built in 1866 and in 1931 the first clock was installed. The original altar was constructed of wood. In 1902 T.G. Schrader and Sons of St. Louis constructed a more ornate altar of marble, plaster and wood.

The most significant part of the church’s history occurred during the construction of the building. On January 9, 1857 the Diocese Episcopal See was transferred to Alton from Quincy. The diocese comprised the southern half of the state while Chicago comprised the northern half of the state. The Most Reverend Henry Damien Juncker became Alton’s first bishop. The Most Reverend Peter Baltes became the second bishop of Alton in 1870 at the death of Bishop Juncker. In 1886 Bishop Baltes died. A third and last Bishop of Alton was appointed, The Most Reverend James Ryan.

THE BISHOPS OF THE ALTON DIOCESE

Below the main alter are the tombs of the first two bishops of the Diocese of Alton, Bishop Henry Damien Juncker and Bishop Peter Joseph Baltes. The third and last bishop, Bishop James Ryan, is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.

Bishop Juncker was born in 1809 at Feretrange in Lorraine, France. He was ordained in 1834 and appointed pastor of the first German parish in Cincinnati. He later transferred to Alton and was consecrated as the first bishop of the new diocese in 1857. Bishop Juncker died in 1868 after a long illness. At the time of his death the diocese had grown to 123 parishes with 100 priests. There were 2 colleges, 2 hospitals, 6 academies, 56 schools, an orphanage and a catholic population of 85,000.

The second bishop of Alton, Bishop Baltes was born in Enshein, Bavaria in 1827. He was accepted as a candidate for the priesthood by the Diocese of Chicago and completed his theological studies in Montreal. He was ordained in 1853. He was appointed the second Bishop of Alton in 1869. His consecration took place at St. Peter’s Church in Belleville making him the first bishop to be consecrated in Illinois. Immediately after becoming the leader of the diocese he set out to establish uniformity in the parishes of the diocese, writing a three-part Pastoral Instruction. The chapter on the use of church bells and beeswax candles are characteristic of his organization. He died at the Bishop’s residence in1886. At the time of his death the diocese had 190 parishes, 100 parochial schools and over 11,000 students.

The third and last Bishop of Alton was Bishop James Ryan, born in County Tipperary, Ireland in 1848. He was ordained in 1871 after a divinity course at St Joseph’s in Bardstown and at Preston Park in Louisville. After several assignments to different parishes in Illinois he was consecrated as Bishop of Alton in 1888.

During its life as the Diocese Cathedral our country experienced the Civil War, Spanish-American War, the St. Louis World’s Fair, paved roads, and revolutionary inventions: electricity, the telephone, the automobile and man’s venture into the air.

Our physical buildings have been through many planned transformations. In May of 1965 the former Bishop’s residence was razed due to prohibitive insurance costs for insuring the structure. The 52-room residence was built in 1862 for the first Bishop of Alton, Bishop Henry Juncker. An auction was held for mementoes and $3000 was raised from parishioners. A new rectory was completed and occupied on May 15, 1966. Parking facilities were also expanded.

In 2015, Ss. Peter & Paul Parish had a beautiful Carillon installed in the bell tower of the church, inviting all to come and worship.

PASTORS OF SS. PETER AND PAUL CHURCH

 

                        Rev. Michael Carroll                                                 1855 to 1857

                        Rev. J. Menge                                                          1857 to 1862

                        Rev. Thomas Mangen                                               1862 to 1865

                        Rev. James Harty                                                     1865 to 1868

                        Rev. Patrick Dee                                                      1868 to 1870

                        Rev. John F. Mohr                                                    1870 to 1873

                        Rev. T.F. Cowley                                                      1873 to 1875

                        Rev. F. Kane                                                             1875 to 1876

                        Rev. Charles Zwiesler                                              1876 to 1888

                        Msgr. E.L. Spaulding                                                1888 to 1935

                        Msgr. J.J. Driscoll                                                    1935 to 1937

                        Msgr. William T. Sloan                                            1937 to 1961

                        Msgr. James J. Haggerty                                        1961 to 1968

                        Rev. Michael J. McGovern                                      1968 to 1976

                        Rev. James J. Sullivan                                           1976 to 1977

                        Rev. Peter J. Donohoe                                           1977 to 1990

                        Rev. Tom Meyer                                                    1990 to 1998

                        Rev. Roger Schoenhoffen                                      1998 to 2009

                        Fr. Délix Michel                                                     2009 to 2013

                        Msgr. Kenneth C. Steffen                                      2013 to